Hi, I’m Caryn Allen, one of your Utah Birth Boot Camp Instructors. I was born and raised in the Saint Louis, Missouri area but have called Utah my home for the last seven years. I am the youngest of six children, having five older brothers, five beautiful sisters-in-law, and sixteen nieces and nephews. My husband and I met when he came to Missouri to do summer sales, and what started out as a summer romance turned into 12 years of marriage, 5 moves in 3 states, 4 children, 1 dog, and loads of fun. I have been teaching piano lessons off and on for eleven years, and consistently for the last six years. I enjoy sewing, crocheting, movie watching, board and card games, Dungeons and Dragons, and a good camping trip.
My journey to birth work started just after our first child was born over 11 years ago. We went into that birth without any experience or education, and my only wish was to avoid an epidural. My mother had my five brothers naturally either in the hospital or birth center, and decided to try an epidural when I was born. She recounted the experience as being cold, sterile, and disconnected, feeling like she wasn’t really a participant in the experience. I decided I didn’t want that, but that was the only choice I had made about my birth beforehand. I didn’t know I had options, and as such, I was pressured into things I likely wouldn’t have accepted with full informed consent. After our daughter was born, I was relieved it was over but also felt dissatisfied with the experience. I’m not sure where the idea came from that birth should be a satisfying experience, but I knew I wanted things to be different next time.
I started soaking up everything I could get my hands on–books, blogs, news articles, and movies–to try and figure out how to make my birth experience better. As I was learning so many things, I decided I wanted to become a doula to help other women have great birth experiences. I became pregnant with our second child and completed my doula certification through another organization before she was born. Her birth was notably different. We made sure to have a good birth team there with us, including my skilled mother-in-law and a good friend of mine (Hollie, now another BBCI) who had also just completed her doula training. That alone, having a good birth team, made a world of difference. They saw to my every need before I knew I even needed it so that I could just focus on being in the labor zone. I had zero interventions. Just me, my baby, and my birth team. After she was born I knew I could conquer anything! I felt on top of the world! I knew then, that I wanted to become a childbirth educator and help expecting parents know their options.
Not long after her birth I trained as an educator with another organization and taught one round of classes before I became pregnant again. Unfortunately that pregnancy ended in an early miscarriage, and I decided that the on-call life and the demand of teaching was too much for me during that phase of my life. I decided to take a hiatus from birth work until we were done having children. Within six months I was pregnant again with our third child and I knew from the beginning that this birth was going to be different. I just wasn’t prepared for how different it really was going to be.
We had planned to have this baby in the hospital again, mostly for financial reasons, though I was really hoping to have a home birth at some point. As the weeks wore on, I kept getting this feeling that birthing in the hospital was not the right choice for this baby. We took steps to interview a few local home birth midwives, and I loved all of them. We received a final recommendation from my husband’s aunt and uncle, and after meeting with her I knew she was the right choice for us. As soon as we officially switched to her care that feeling changed from one of anxiety to one of peace. We excitedly started preparing for our first home birth.
I practiced meditating in all sorts of ways almost every single night before bed, and it got to the point that all it took was to hear the first song on my labor playlist and I was immediately in the zone. I went to my 40 week appointment (on my due date) and we discovered that our little guy had turned not only breech, but footling breech. My midwife tired moxibustion which made him wiggle around a lot, but he stayed breech. She sent me home with her slant board and a list of exercises to do to encourage him to turn head down, and I was prepared to call the chiropractor first thing in the morning. I knew this was the reason we were supposed to birth at home and not in a hospital.
However, I went into labor that night. To make a long story short, our son was born at home in a pool in our bedroom, footling breech, and delivered by my husband because labor happened so quickly that by the time we decided to call the midwife, it was too late. She arrived merely 1-2 minutes after he was born. (While I don’t recommend having an unassisted breech baby at home, I will say that all the things we had learned and practiced leading up to this moment really helped us stay calm and be in control of the situation. My husband is incredibly intuitive and after describing to my midwife how he helped deliver the baby, she said he’d done everything right.) It was a whirlwind of events, but we knew everything was going to be okay. We look back on that experience both with utter shock and also true amazement.
We had one more son born 3 years later, also at home. This birth was unlike any of the others in that I only ever felt the contractions in my cervix. Not in the back or belly, just in the cervix. To add insult to injury, when my contractions started they were already a minute and a half to two minutes long. It was, by far, the hardest labor I’ve experienced because none of my usual comfort measures were working. The birth pool felt nice, but didn’t help me relax. Counter pressure didn’t do anything for me because those areas weren’t hurting. I found a little bit of relief sitting on the toilet, but that, too, was short-lived. I really questioned whether I was capable of finishing this labor out because it was so hard and fast from the very beginning. With the encouragement of two midwives, my husband, my doula (Hollie again!), and our then-8 year old daughter, I mustered every ounce of courage and energy I had to finally birth my largest baby at 9 pounds 4 ounces. I’m not sure why this labor was so hard, but it left me feeling like I never wanted to do that again! There is some disappointment there because I really wish my last birth experience had been memorable for more positive reasons, but I have come to terms with it and am enjoying this next phase of life (except potty training, I’m not enjoying that right now at all!).
Now that we’re through having our own children and the youngest is nearing his third birthday, I’m excited to take the leap back into birth work again. I passionately believe that knowledge is power, and with that power comes the potential for truly wonderful birthing experiences! Teaching has always been a passion of mine (my earliest memory of wanting to be a teacher was in fifth grade!), and I’m excited to be teaching such a beautifully professional and comprehensive curriculum!